Sunday, October 12, 2014

Oct. 12, 2014: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Click to hear audio homily
Over the years, how many wedding invitations have you received? What percentage of those invites did you turn down? Were you able to find a tactful way to turn down the invite? Today even though the technology makes it easy to send the invitation electronically, most couples send paper invitation. Recently, I saw an invitation with a very clever RSVP. It had five check boxes. 1) Gladly attend, 2) Regretfully decline, 3) Regretfully attend, 4) Enthusiastically decline, 5) Will decline to respond but ultimately attend. I do wonder how the host would feel if you checked the "Regretfully attend" box.

The mere fact that you received an invitation indicates that you are important to the person who sent it. To lightly dismiss or ignore the invitation is to dishonor the host. Wedding receptions can be expensive these days, epspecially with some of the fancy local plantation houses cost upwards of $100 per person!

With this in mind, we can begin to unfold the meaning of the parable of the wedding feast that Jesus told us today. The setting is a wedding feast prepared by a king for his son. One can hardly imagine a happier occasion than a marriage celebration. In biblical times, this was an opportunity for family, friends, and even whole villages to set aside the drudgery of daily duties for several days of feasting and merriment. One important detail in this parable is who is issuing the invite -- a king. If we were to receive an invitation to the Governor's Mansion or to the White House, we probably would not ask ourselves if we can make it; we probably would clear our calendar to make sure we could be there. But in the parable, some of those who were invited ignored the call and went about their business. Some even mistreated the king's messengers and had some of them killed. The king was enraged by all this, for they insulted him by their defiance and also failed to give the respect that was due the king and his son. Then the king invited those who had no claim on him and who would never have considered getting such an invitation. The place was packed, but the king noticed one who was not dressed for the occasion. This was an insult to the king as well.

The parable of the wedding feast is about our response to God’s call. The parable cautions us first of the dangers of indifference. When the Father invites us into a relationship with his Son, we can either choose to respond or we can quietly decline the invitation and go back to our personal pursuits as though nothing has changed and no new demands have been placed on our lives. Another danger brought to our attention is indignation. Many people fight the idea that we are all sinners in need of salvation. In such cases, the good news and its call for repentance can seem like a threat to our happiness and our deepest desires for fulfillment in life. This can put us on the defensive and even provoke a hostile response toward those who challenge us with the claims of Christ. Finally, the parable warns us against incomplete conversion. The man without the wedding garment had neither ignored nor refused the invitation to the feast. But his yes to the call of God was not carried through in his life. He wanted the good things of the kingdom, but not enough to break with his sinful ways and live as a committed disciple.

Many are invited, Jesus says, but few are chosen. The point is that all are called to the kingdom, but not all will be found worthy to possess it. Some will decline the invitation and so exclude themselves from its blessings; others will accept it but will not follow through in putting its demands into practice. Those found acceptable are those committed to directing their lives by the gospel. They clothe themselves in the garments of true repentance and Christlike righteousness.

This week, let's ponder the invitation God has given each of us. How have we responded? Have we received the sacraments and then not been Christlike in all that we do? Do we remember our baptismal promises when we interact with our family, friends and co-workers? Do I love as Christ loves? We have received undeserved, unmerited favor and kindness from God; do we take seriously the responsibility that is demanded of this gracious gift?